When The Rock returned at Raw 1000, he proclaimed that he would fight whoever had the WWE tile at the 2013 edition of the Royal Rumble (h/t WWE on Twitter).
With CM Punk likely retaining his title through the Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view against Ryback before dropping the belt to the People’s Champion at the Rumble, there are serious benefits and ramifications from this move.
F4WOnline is reporting via Wrestling Inc. about why Punk continued to hold the belt through the fall and why the WWE never had any intention of letting him drop the title:
We noted before that there were people pushing for Ryback to take the WWE Title from CM Punk at Survivor Series and then have Punk win it back at TLC.
Vince McMahon was all for Punk retaining the title at Survivor Series and there was a feeling among some that one of the reasons Vince is so against someone else ending Punk's reign is because of how The Rock would react. The Rock has been under the impression for some time that he would be the one to end Punk's reign at the Royal Rumble.
The battle between The Rock and Punk has been something the WWE has teased since the 1000th episode of Raw when the champion clotheslined the legend and gave him the GTS to prove once and for all that he was now a heel.
As the Royal Rumble continues to draw nearer, the realization that Punk—one of the most outspoken stars in the WWE—will have to lose the title to a star that has wrestled two matches in seven years can’t be sitting well with the champion.
Despite the obvious advantages and drawbacks of this situation, the fact that The Rock and Punk will even be involved in a match is a great idea for business.
How people view the part-time star winning the title is a whole different story, though.
How This Helps WWE
The WWE is a business first and foremost, and the objective of every company is to make money. Chairman Vince McMahon knows how the wrestling business works as well as anyone in the world, and The Rock versus CM Punk is the smartest fiscal decision.
While Punk is already over with the WWE Universe as the heel that most fans love to hate, his appeal is to the fans that already love wrestling; not the casual fans that watch it sparingly or do not invest in the bad guys.
What better way to get the casual fans to care about Punk now and going forward than by making him the enemy of one of the most popular superstars in the history of the business?
The Rock is an international superstar—boasting fans both from his days as a top draw in the WWE and now his fame in the movie industry—and the people that don’t watch the programming normally will tune in to see what the former champion is doing in the WWE again.
When those fair-weather fans turn on the television and see Punk with The Rock and hear him verbally cutting the part-time wrestler down, they will be inclined to ask more about the current WWE champion.
Add in the length of the current reign and how much clout that WWE title now brings thanks to Punk, and the casual fans that accompany The Rock to the programming will begin to feel emotions towards Punk as well.
That’s how you turn the casual fans back into hardcore WWE followers; give them a reason to care again.
Question on Everybody's Mind: Why Give the Title to a Part-Time Wrestler?
While there is no questioning how much a month of build involving Punk and The Rock could catapult the current WWE Champion into the upper echelon of the greatest superstars of all time, there are legitimate questions about allowing Punk to drop the title to The Rock.
The part-time superstar is hardly ever on WWE programming and hasn’t earned the right to fight for the title in the ring; the company handed the shot to The Rock because it knows he’d bring the buy rates for every PPV he is on through the roof.
As the WWE continues to struggle with building young stars and getting them over with the crowd, the idea of handing the WWE Title—the biggest prize in the entire industry—to a man that works less than the Undertaker can be viewed as counterproductive.
While these points are valid, just having The Rock on a card makes the show must-see; add in the caveat that the action star is also the champion and that programming becomes legendary.
Everyone will remember where they were when Punk’s epic title run was stopped by The Rock.
As for the talk that The Rock’s return will not benefit the younger guys on the roster, whenever the ratings skyrocket like they do when a huge star returns (i.e. Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, etc.), there are more eyes on the product.
The Rock’s presence and the intrigue around how the WWE handles his title run will have even the most casual fans drawn into the product. While they’re waiting for the movie star’s segment they tuned in to see, stars like Antonio Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler and The Shield will have a chance to shine.
More eyes on the programming means a better chance at getting the WWE Universe to care about younger wrestlers.
Merit Meter: 5 out of 5 CM Punk Twitter Rants
As we have seen from the Twitter war that has raged since Raw 1000 between Punk and The Rock, this is something the company has been teasing for months.
While this match at Royal Rumble has been foreshadowed since the summer, the constant complaints from Punk about having to fight a part-time wrestler like Dwayne Johnson proves the WWE is all-in on this battle.
Punk has become a master of using Twitter to build his character and further storylines, and The Rock has joined right in by adding even more fuel to the fire. With both men exchanging jabs for over three months, the feeling that there is true animosity is what the WWE is trying to build.
The company wants the average fan to think that Punk hates The Rock, and the Twitter warfare is just another weapon in the WWE’s public relations arsenal.
Going all the way back to 2011 when Punk cut his epic pipe-bomb promo on Raw, the seeds have been planted for this battle. The difference is that Punk had a huge title reign before having to drop the title to The Rock and will understand dropping the strap for the betterment of the company.
Not headlining WrestleMania 29 will be a different story, though.
If Punk doesn’t like the fact that the WWE will be handing the title to The Rock at the Royal Rumble, he really won’t like hearing that all signs point to the main event of WrestleMania 29 being John Cena versus The Rock for the WWE Title.
Once in a Lifetime; Part Deux.
Unless plans change and Stone Cold Steve Austin is used this year instead of next, the fact that The Rock will win the WWE Title at the Royal Rumble means he will at least defend it against Punk at Elimination Chamber before facing off with the likely Royal Rumble match winner.
The likely winner of the 30-man Battle Royal at the Rumble: Cena.
Punk’s epic title reign has brought legitimacy back to the strap, and The Rock winning it and eventually dropping it to Cena in the biggest rematch in history will only add to the allure of the title.
Punk has become a viable No. 2 star for the WWE during his time with the title, and this will not be his last chance to hold the belt. With a very bright future in front of him and the support of the right people behind the scenes, Punk has done a great job helping to build the title back up and the WWE will reward him eventually.
While Punk may play second-fiddle to The Rock and Cena this year, his possible battle with Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania 30 will make him a bigger star than a title reign of any length could achieve.
Fans will continue to complain, but giving the WWE Title to The Rock will do nothing but benefit the company over the long haul.
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